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The start of training camp is a time for optimism all around the NFL — even for a team that has gone 11 straight seasons without a winning season.
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen watches players stretch during NFL football training camp Friday, July 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif.
Oakland Raiders owners Mark Davis, right, laughs on the sideline with general manager Reggie McKenzie, left, during their NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif.
Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew, right, and quarterback Trent Edwards (5) stretch during their NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub throws the ball during NFL football training camp Friday, July 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif.
A few practices into Jimmie Ward's career at Northern Illinois, Huskies head coach Jerry Kill realized the lightly recruited defensive back was not to be taken lightly.
Two training-camp practices into his NFL career, the 49ers' first-round pick has looked - to borrow from Kill - pretty damn good.
Ward didn't participate in the offseason program after undergoing foot surgery in March, but his first NFL practice came last week when the rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans reported.
In June, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Ward "wouldn't look good early" in training camp because he was sidelined during the spring.
On two occasions he covered physical wide receiver Anquan Boldin, an 11-year veteran who routinely gives smaller cornerbacks the rag-doll treatment.
Despite his non-BCS school background, the NFL stage doesn't appear to be too big for Ward, who, in high school, was stunned he only received one Division I offer.
At least that's the opinion of 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio after watching Culliver in the first practice of training camp Thursday.
Running back Kendall Hunter sustained an apparent right knee injury during practice, but he walked off the field without assistance.
After head trainer Jeff Ferguson examined his right knee on the sideline, he escorted Hunter to the locker room.
Hunter walked to the locker room without a noticeable limp.
Defensive tackle Justin Smith's decreased playing time last year wasn't a nod to his age, but his aching shoulder.
Rookie wide receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle) was removed from the non-football injury list, but the fourth-round pick was only a spectator during practice.
English Premier League teams see the Untied States as a monstrous untapped soccer market as they continue to build their brand, and now Sacramento has a piece of the action after hosting West Bromwich Albion FC in friendlies on Monday and Friday at Bonney Field.
Highlights: The English Premier League team made it a sweep after taking Monday’s friendly 1-0 on an early penalty kick. But unlike that match, in which Republic FC outshot the Baggies 21-11, it had no answer for West Brom’s physically imposing forward duo of Saido Berahino and Victor Anichebe during the second annual Sacramento Soccer Day at Bonney Field.